Former NFL analyst John Madden liked to talk about finality during Super Bowl telecasts, especially as the end neared. What he liked to point out was that even for the champion, there’s a “finality.” In 2011, when the Mavericks won the NBA title, they faced the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time in the playoffs, which was hard to believe, considering the Lakers and Mavericks had been in the playoffs in the Western Conference every year for some time.
The Mavericks, however, have not had the pleasure over the years of avoiding the Spurs in the playoffs. Since 2001, this is the sixth time the Southwest Division rivals have met in the playoffs. For the most part, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli have been there during this stretch, but Dirk Nowitzki, Mark Cuban, Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich have been there through thick and thin.
Much like this current series, the rivalry has been a back-and-forth battle. The Spurs won the first two matchups in 2001 and 2003. Then, the Mavericks won the next two matchups in 2006 and 2009. The Spurs won the following year, and this is the first matchup since. With the dominance the Spurs have had over the Mavericks in recent years, however, a misconception has been created about the Spurs always beating the Mavericks.
That has not been the case, and these two recent wins by the Mavericks over the Spurs may have reminded some of that. With Nowitzki, Duncan, Ginobli and Parker not getting any younger, the core of one of the greatest playoff rivalries the NBA has ever seen could be coming to an end; if it is, it looks like it’s going to go out with a bang.
As the series winds down, perhaps these aging stars will see all the epic moments of the rivalry wind down, like in 2006, when Nowitzki converted a three-point play with just 2.6 seconds left in Game 7 to force overtime, where Dallas won. The third time was the charm for the Mavericks then, as they finally got past San Antonio in the playoffs.
What about 2010, the last time the Mavericks and Spurs met in the playoffs before this season? The Mavericks were the No. 2 seed, while the Spurs, who were the No. 7 seed, pulled off the upset. The Spurs watched in 2007 as the No. 1 seed Mavericks were upset by the No. 8 seed Golden State Warriors, while the Mavericks watched as the Memphis Grizzlies did the same thing to the Spurs in 2011.
Both watched as the other went on to win it all. The Mavericks vs. Spurs rivalry is one for the ages, but maybe this is the end of that rivalry. Maybe this series is about more than just who gets to the next round in 2014. Maybe God set it up this way so there can be one final, epic series to give this rivalry the proper sendoff.
Maybe in the end, even the winner of the series will think of the finality of it all. This is the end of something big, of something special. This series is about so much more than just the game of basketball, and should be appreciated as such. Game 4 is Monday night, 9:30 p.m. EST at the American Airlines Center.